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Escape from N’Awlins

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Some of the images coming out of New Orleans in the last few days would not look out of place in a Hollywood disaster movie, and it would not surprise me terribly if one were to arrive in a year or so. All the people who were able to leave did so in time, leaving the poor, indolent, ill or disabled, and those with personal reasons to stay, such as watching over loved ones or pets.

There are textbooks to be written about the events that followed, psychological analyses of how the dregs of society cope when cooped up in an astroturf pressure cooker. The lack of basic common sense principles, such as the idea that you stop using a toilet once it has overflowed, and go outside instead. How about not firing guns at National Guard helicopters bringing you food and water?

What about the city itself? Most of it below sea level, in a hurricane zone, reliant on electric pumps to keep the drains and sewers flowing? Always at risk of a repeat attack by Big Momma Nature, possibly this year. So it was Home to thousands of people, but its position is untenable, and may be a mere memory within my lifetime.

Here’s a useful article on the geography of New Orleans, with some of the history of how it came to be that way. It ends on a mundanely chilling note I had not thought of before reading it: if the Mississippi wants to change its course as a result of the broken levees, taking it through the current city centre: the US Army Corps of Engineers may have something to say about that, but it will be incredibly difficult to push the Old Man away from an area located below sea level, if He has already taken it over. It might not be worth it.


Written by brian t

September 2, 2005 at 5:35 pm

Posted in philosophy, travel

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